"Esther, I meant to tell
you. I learned from some of the people in town the agent is coming to
visit with us this coming week." Sam was sharing this bit of information
with his wife.
"And now, what is his
business with us?" Esther wanted to know.
"We will just have to wait
until he gets here. Maybe it will be something good.”
"I am so busy right now.
The fruit trees need pruning and there is so much work to be done. You
would think they could look around them and see this isn't the time of the
year we want to entertain visitors. I will have to stop everything in
order to cook and see to it he is treated properly. It isn't a good idea
to anger the agent. He has so much to do with everything. Possibly take
away our land or take his pick of whatever he wants. It just is not the
right time for a visit.” Esther was not happy with the agent coming to
their little farm.
"I know, I know. All you
say is true. We will have to put up with him. Maybe, there will be nothing
to it. Could be, it is just a census to enroll little Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay."
Esther seemed satisfied
with the explanation and said no more. She was thinking plenty, though.
She knew it did no good to quarrel with the white agent. Progress had been
made. They had her husband's business, their own lovely, new, wood frame,
home. Sam had built the house out of lumber from the mill. The pleasant
furnishings she had all were won from their cooperation with the white
man. Opposition to his policies was not smart.
Quietly, she was planning
the meal she would prepare for the evening. She took much care to cook
like the white woman and she knew exactly what food he would enjoy. The
light hot biscuits they always served complimented the food and the agent
would, no doubt, be pleased.
That next week when the
agent arrived, Esther had everything in order.
"Get off. Come in." Esther
heard her husband, Sam, trying to make the agent feel welcome. As she
glanced out the door she could see the bureaucrat was not in a good frame
"Say, Sam!" The agent
complained. "What is wrong with that brother-in-law of yours up there on
the hill? I think he would have killed me if his sons had not pulled him
off. I only went up there to tell him I had a leaser for his wife's land.
The wild way he behaved, you would have thought I was trying to steal her
land. I'll be damned if he didn't take an iron bar and swing it around
until I was ready to get up and run."
Sam was trying to be the
peace maker. He knew the people of the Broken Jaw family and of the Little
Cooks too. They were tall, big, men. Subjection to the authorities was
necessary but, there was an uneasy peace. The Ponca's were a gentle,
strong, people. They were not warlike and actually part of their belief
was; "Peace with me, and Peace all about me." However, there was not one
bit of fear in their total being and they believed in self defense.
There wasn't any good sense
in getting anything stirred up. Sam was sure of that. Trying to distract
the agent he said, "Esther has a fine meal she's been worrying over for
more than a week now. Come on in and let's get up to the table." The
diplomatic man was working to smooth the ruffled feelings of the all
The federal man drew
himself up and regained his dignity. He spoke while he remembered his
duty. "As you know, I'm here on business. I really think we'd best get
this matter over."
"Whatever you say." Sam was
making every effort to get along with the man.
Esther went about quietly
setting the food out for the table. Her thoughts were going toward
control, for surely she should be able to do so. Her brother had obviously
not been able to keep his temper under control. Peace was the only way to
survive and she knew this. She was also aware there would probably be
repercussions from the incident between her brother and this man, although
they themselves had nothing to do with it. The fact that it happened in
her brother's family brought it home to them, also.
Their visitor was anxious
to get into the reason for his coming out. He glanced all around the room
and began to feel more comfortable. Esther was adjusting and adapting to
the White world. This he could see. Her house was orderly with little
touches of style going to the modern decor of the day. There was a large
desk before him. He noticed it was of a good size but still set with the
things he needed to complete his work. Here was a heavy glass inkwell
filled and ready for his pen. The well looked like a square glass box. The
light filtered through it changing it to a sort of a prism. Dancing
colored rays of light spread out over the desk top.
He began. "Well now Sam,
you know, of course, you must register your last child with a Christian
name. And, by the way, where is your last child?"
This was a signal for
Esther to stop her work, and she exchanged glances with her husband, Sam.
"Esther, go find the girl and bring her here, won't you? This man wants to
give her a Christian name."
"Quietly and quickly Esther
obeyed. She returned almost immediately with the child, Meka-Thee-Ing-Gay.
"Come shake the hand of this gentlemen, and speak politely to him in his
language." Esther coached her in their own language.
"How do you do, Sir?" the
little girl looked directly at the man as she broke away from the polite
manners of her culture. It was not loving in their ways to make eye
contact as an animal would do before it attacks. Nor was it proper to try
to steal his spirit by looking directly into his eyes. In the Ponca world
this was, at the time, considered to be bad manners. However, her
intelligent family had already observed and studied the ways of the people
around them. By doing this they were able to teach their children how to
She was tiny in size but
she was quick of mind. She spoke a greeting to him in English as she
offered her hand for a handshake. Even in her youth she had been tutored
to show these men of authority respect.
The agent was impressed.
"Well now, little lady, can you tell me what you are called? What is your
the soft whispered reply. This name described the night of her birth when
there was a bright moon with no stars. Because she was of the rain band,
straight path, her mother and father had named her after one of the
elements in the sky. This was the custom, according to her clan.